Last week I promised you an account of our time on the Beara Peninsula – it’s the third of the West Cork Peninsulas (shared with County Kerry) and the most remote. To the north is the Iveragh Peninsula, better known as the Ring of Kerry, and to the south is the Sheep’s Head.
Readers have teased me in the past about doctoring my photographs or carefully choosing only those that show blue sky. After all, everyone knows that it rains all the time in Ireland. While I haven’t done any doctoring, or over-careful selecting (honest!) – even I have to admit that yes, it does rain in Ireland and the first day of our trip was pretty much a washout. (In fairness, like, we have devoted much bandwidth to talk of the variable weather we encounter here – cast an eye back over here, here and here.)
Despite the weather, we managed to have a truly marvellous first day on our mini-break: it was a delight for the body and for the soul. First the body part – a stop in the famous Manning’s Emporium in Ballylickey. In the Manning family for 70 years and under the guidance of Val Manning, this little shop turned from a post office and grocery store into a mecca for food lovers, with wines, cheeses, meats and baked goods to die for. Val’s niece and her husband, Laura and Andrew Heath, have joined the business, introduced a new hot menu and expanded the range of foodie items. I’ve never yet left empty handed and, after a cappuccino and scone, we browsed the shelves and chose some excellent aged cheddar, a jar of their own chutney, and some locally made and heavenly-scented soap. The place was heaving, and Val himself was chatting sociably with everyone – always a bonus to enjoy a laugh with him.
Now for the soul! We had booked two tickets for that afternoon to the Ahabeg Vista Concert Series, on the advice of a friend. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but what we experienced took our breath away. David Syme, a Juilliard-trained and internationally acclaimed American concert pianist has made his home on the Beara, between Adrigole and Castletownbere, and every Sunday afternoon in the summer he gives a concert in his living room.
With Bantry Bay as the backdrop (except we couldn’t see it on this occasion), he played first a long and complex piece, Schumann’s Carnaval. Although I am no pianist even I could see the technical prowess demanded by the 22 short movements. David explained it to us, and even identified some of the motifs as he was playing. He took requests from the audience (ours was Clair de Lune) and played pieces by Beethoven, Liszt, Gershwin and Ravel. But then he delighted us with Carolan’s Concerto, Elton John’s Candle in the Wind and finally Danny Boy, in honour of Maureen O’Hara. We learned that Maureen, a long-time resident of Glengarriff, is to be honoured with a special Oscar next year – so watch out for that next February 22nd! David’s wife, Suzanne, puts on an amazing spread during the interval. To get a sense of what we encountered, watch the RTE Nationwide program devoted to this concert series.
This was only our first day and we encountered fog and drizzle everywhere. But it didn’t matter – when you find such nourishment for the body and the soul, who cares about the weather! I will write more about the Beara in a future post: meanwhile, check out Robert’s account of an unexpected discovery in Eyries.